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Missing Las Vegas yet? CES has been doing its best to replicate the aura of deal-making and industry camaraderie that its annual in-person event is famous for, but there’s no denying it is not the same; your home office is just not a cavernous convention hall with a 50-foot screen, and no matter how well-stocked your fridge is, it probably can’t compare to the Bellagio buffet.

One thing this year’s all-digital CES is not lacking, however, is innovation. With 200 sessions and 1,800 industry-leading exhibitors, the insights flowing out of CES’s virtual venue rival that from any of its previous Vegas shows—and perhaps even more so, following a year that has been anything but business-as-usual. But for attendees whose schedules (and newsfeeds) are sure to be jam-packed, fear not, Ad Age has you covered.

You can catch up on anything you may have missed during yesterday’s sessions with our executive summary below, and if you haven’t already, feel free to check out this week’s first newsletter that recaps the start of the all-virtual CES 2021.

EVs are driving development

It’s been two years since the last North American International Auto Show, and with another not scheduled until this autumn, CES has become an interim stage of choice to discuss and showcase innovations in the automotive world—particularly when it comes to the tech-heavy category of electric vehicles.

Yesterday’s biggest EV news came from General Motors, which announced a new commercial electric vehicle business called BrightDrop that’s set to hit the roads later this year with its first locked-in customer: FedEx. But the new electric brand won’t just stand on one delivery van, dubbed the EV600; it will offer a range of electric products, software and services, the automaker confirmed. To start, BrightDrop will build roughly 500 EV600s for FedEx Express, GM's VP of global innovation Pamela Fletcher told reporters, with letters of intent already in hand from a number of other undisclosed customers.

If you’re keen to learn more about the fast-evolving topic that is electric cars, don’t miss “Automotive Transformation: EVs and Connectivity,” a panel session at 3:15 p.m. EST this afternoon featuring speakers from GM, the Zero Emission Transportation Association, Deloitte and more.

The future of TV

TV has evolved considerably in the past decade, perhaps more than any other piece of technology, and the pandemic has only served to accelerate the fast-moving trajectory of TV and how we watch it. So, where is it heading?

On the innovation side of the coin, 8K capability is front and center, reports Ad Age’s Mike Juang. (It feels like just yesterday that 4K plasma screens were jaw-droppingly futuristic, but life comes at you fast.) “To me, there’s no chicken-and-egg now,” said Madeleine Noland, president at TV standards-setting organization Advanced TV Systems Committee. With the increasing adoption of 8K—which caught Ad Age’s eye at last year’s CES—broadcasters must now create content that makes the most out of the TVs, she added. “[Viewers] need to turn on the TV, go to the channels, and just go ‘wow.’”

As for the modern TV-viewing experience, one of the most significant trends that emerged in the past year or so is how people have come together to watch TV virtually, said Sandeep Gupta, VP and general manager of Fire TV, Amazon, during a CES panel on streaming yesterday. But that’s not the only evolution that the TV universe has experienced. In terms of built-in software, Gupta says there will come a point where you can ask an ultra-intelligent Alexa complex questions like, “What do I want to watch next?”

Has streaming maxed itself out?

If you can’t tell your Disney+ from your Paramount+, you’re not alone. It seems like everyone and their mother has entered the so-called “streaming wars” in the past couple of years, and while executives of top video-on-demand platforms say that the market still has some room to grow, we’re not far from the point when competing streaming services will become too numerous for the market to sustain.

“This is not a winner-takes-all marketplace,” Scott Reich, senior VP of programming at Pluto TV said during a CES event yesterday. “There is room to talk about how many SVODs the market can support.” Reich says providers may experiment with packages and formats, as consumers ultimately create their own “bundle” of services out of the market choices available, Ad Age’s Mike Juang reports.

Andrew McCollum, CEO of budget-friendly streaming service Philo, notes that consumer-side problems—like different logins, user interfaces and the need to track down content across services—could overwhelm people with choice to the point that they’ll begin canceling subscriptions. “People complain to us that I wish I didn’t have to use two different apps to watch what I want to watch,” he said.

Block party

Following last week’s violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, almost all of social media’s largest players including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram took the unprecedented step of suspending—and eventually banning—President Trump from their respective platforms. But only now are we hearing from those who were forced to make those consequential decisions.

“The risks of allowing President Trump to continue to use our service during this period, where we are trying to get to the inauguration and a potential peaceful transition of power, the risks were simply too great,” said Carolyn Everson, VP of Facebook’s Global Business Group, during yesterday’s CES events. 

Facebook is currently dealing with an ongoing persistent threat of violence, Everson added, acknowledging how drastic a step it was—albeit a necessary one—for the social network to take “the leader of the free world off Facebook.”

It’s like you’re really there!

When CES decided to take its show on the virtual road last summer, organizers, sponsor brands and exhibitors were collectively given a task: make attendees feel as engrossed in the spectacle as possible from the comfort of their homes. One solution? Immersive reality.

Such technology may very well prove to be the future of experiential content, at least until the pandemic is brought under control and in-person events return. And, two weeks into 2021, Verizon seems to be leading the charge. During a preview at CES, the telecom giant announced a partnership with Sony Music Entertainment and singer Madison Beer for an on-demand, immersive reality concert available through PlayStation VR, Oculus VR and online video channels. Set in a digital recreation of New York’s Sony Hall, the show will feature Beer “as an ultra-realistic virtual avatar in an upcoming new showcase powered by cutting-edge innovations in real-time 3D creation technology,” the companies said in a statement.

At its debut CES event on Monday, Verizon also launched “The Met Unframed,” an interactive experience in cooperation with the Metropolitan Museum of Art that’s designed to highlight both AR capabilities and new 5G tech. Read more about the immersive museum experience from Ad Age’s Mike Juang here.

Sessions to attend today

Is it even CES if your schedule isn’t wall-to-wall packed? Staying true to the bustle of an in-person event, CES has ensured there will be no shortage of new events to attend today—a whopping 85, not including reruns from yesterday, with multiple sessions running in every timeslot. 

To help you curate your schedule, Ad Age staff have scoured today’s dozens of planned presentations to offer our personal picks for which events might pique the interest of brand folks, agency pros and media strategists alike. If you’ve got some time to fill, or are having trouble deciding what panels to listen in on, consider adding these sessions to your list:

How CMOs Can Create Long-Term Value Amid Upheaval,” 9:45 a.m. EST: Last year altered consumer behaviors and accelerated tech like no other, and this session with MediaLink’s managing director Chris Vollmer and executive VP Andrea Redniss will address how marketers can safely navigate the new industry landscape.

5G’s First Year: From Insights to Innovation,” 11:30 a.m. EST: With 5G’s first consumer-facing year in the books, this panel will discuss lessons learned and innovations that lie ahead with telecom pros including AT&T CEO Anne Chow and Qualcomm Technologies’ Senior VP of Engineering Alejandro Holcman.

The 3P’s of Demystifying AI for Marketers,” 1:45 p.m. EST: Moving into the future, as the advertising world increasingly embraces artificial intelligence, marketers should not lose sight of the three P’s of AI: patterns, preferences and predictions. Quantcast CMO Ingrid Burton breaks it all down in this session. 

Confronting the 2021 Data Dilemma,” 3:15 p.m. EST: Goodbye third-party cookies, hello regulations! Seakers from Disney, TransUnion, UM Worldwide and more will address how marketers can simultaneously protect consumers while fostering customer loyalty.

And the award goes to…

This evening at 7:10 p.m. EST, Engadget’s Cherlynn Low and Chris Velazco will host the annual Best of CES awards, honoring standouts in every category from mobile devices to accessibility tech, with contenders being judged on innovation, design, market appeal and functionality.

Last year, winning products included Townew’s self-changing trash can, the world’s first foldable PC from Lenovo, and the Motorola Razr, which won the Most Innovative Phone award (yes, seriously). Stick around after today’s sessions wind down to find out what futuristic products will take home this year’s Best of CES honors.

That's it for today's edition of the Ad Age CES newsletter. We'll see you tomorrow for our third and final installment that will reflect on this year’s first-ever virtual event, recap a wealth of industry-leading innovations and, as always, cover anything you might miss from today.

For more industry news and insight, follow us on Twitter: @adage.

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